Spread the cheer and the protein! Some families will get more healthy food to eat, now that Florida Panhandle residents donated a record of more than 20,000 pounds of peanut butter for this year’s UF/IFAS Extension Peanut Butter Challenge, organizers said.
Combine nearly 9,000 pounds in donations to UF/IFAS Extension county offices with 11,340 pounds from the Florida Peanut Producers Association (FPPA), and you get 20,258 pounds of peanut butter to feed the hungry in the Panhandle’s 16 counties.
Since 2012, the Extension faculty, volunteers and the FPPA have collected jars of peanut butter from residents, organizations and businesses in the 16 counties that make up the UF/IFAS Northwest District.
The public donated 8,918 pounds of peanut butter to UF/IFAS Extension county offices, according to Libbie Johnson, an agricultural agent for UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County and the co-organizer of the annual Challenge. That peanut butter will go to food pantries from Pensacola to Monticello.
Extension faculty also report the number of jars they received. This year, they tallied 10,080, which is nearly triple last year’s total of 3,875 jars.
“The Peanut Butter Challenge raises awareness of the important contribution of North Florida’s peanut growers to the state peanut industry, and it helps provide a healthy, locally produced product to Panhandle families who do not have easy access to nutritious food,” Johnson said. “Our communities came through again this year with tremendous responses to our calls for peanut butter donations, and we thank them.”
Leading the way in this year’s Challenge was Escambia County with 2,495 pounds, followed by Jefferson County with 1,575, Santa Rosa with 1,161 and Bay with 1,092.
So hungry families benefit from your donation. How much are those donations worth? Take Bay County, for example. If you take the average retail price for a pound of peanut butter from the Bureau of Labor Statistics ($2.52) and multiply it by the 1,092 pounds donated in Bay County, it comes out to $2,751 worth of peanut butter donations, Johnson said.
Now that people have given peanut butter, it’s time to deliver it to needy families. Among efforts in the various counties, Johnson will lead a team of UF/IFAS Extension Escambia County faculty and staff, as they distribute donated peanut butter to 25 food pantries in the Panhandle on Dec. 15.
The FPPA did its part, too, donating seven pallets of peanut butter to the Challenge this year, compared with four last year.
Ken Barton, executive director of the FPPA, thanked Peanut Proud for helping FPPA buy peanut butter below retail cost. Peanut Proud has delivered more than 430,000 jars of peanut butter to disaster relief efforts and food banks throughout the southeastern United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico during 2017, according to its website.
“The Peanut Butter Challenge is a wonderful program that creates a friendly competition between county Extension offices and everyone involved, while providing local food pantries with much-needed protein, in the form of peanut butter,” Barton said. “We are happy to be a part of the Peanut Butter Challenge.”
by Brad Buck, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences